Bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort are some of the most common complaints that everyone has. Often people are surprised to find out that these symptoms are often related to their food choices and not the amount of food on their plate. That’s not to say overeating won’t lead to a feeling of fullness and discomfort but for the person that eats well, is mindful of their hunger cues, and lives an overall healthy lifestyle, chronic bloating can be really frustrating. Fortunately, with a little self-awareness and a few tweaks to your food choices, you won’t have to suffer forever.

Bloating can be described as the feeling that there is an inflated balloon in the abdomen. It is a commonly reported symptom and is sometimes associated with distension, or the visible increase in the width of the area between your hips and chest (abdominal girth).

Both bloating and distension cause discomfort, and sometimes pain, and have a negative impact on the quality of life for some individuals. The symptoms may be linked with other gas related complaints, such as burping or belching (eructation), swallowing air (aerophagia), and passing intestinal gas (flatulence).

Some of the causes of bloating might be:

You Eat Too Fast

The pace of life has us all in a hurry, but if that leaves you wolfing down your meals, be warned: besides food, you’re also swallowing gas-producing air, which balloons your belly. Trapped air isn’t the only bloat trigger here.

Dehydration

We’re always told to drink our two liters daily but who knew it could ward off the bloat, too? “Drinking lots of water can potentially reduce the likelihood of bloating because dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can halt digestion,” explains Dr Akbar. She goes on: “When your body attempts to counter-balance the effects of being dehydrated, it holds on to excess water.” Cue: a big round belly.

Rule Out Wheat Allergies or Lactose Intolerance

Food allergies and intolerances can cause gas and bloating. But these need to be confirmed by your doctor. Many people self-diagnose these conditions and unnecessarily eliminate healthy dairy and whole grains from their diets. If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, see your doctor for tests.

You may benefit from reducing the amount of the suspected food or eating it with other foods. In the case of dairy, it can help to choose aged cheeses and yogurts, which are lower in lactose.

Hormonal Fluctuations

Could be the cause if: You are ­premenstrual or in the early stages of pregnancy. During pregnancy, and just before your period, levels of the hormone progesterone are raised. This can slow down gut motility or movement, which means food passes more slowly through the body, leading to bloating and possibly constipation.

But you can beat the bloat. Exercise can help improve gut mobility and walking for 30 minutes a day could be enough to make the difference.

Decrease Your Sugar Intake

Whether you have FODMAP sensitivity or not, it is a good idea to limit the amount of sugar you consume. Excessive added sugars in the diet have been linked to many diseases as well as obesity in general. It is common knowledge that artificial sweeteners can cause abdominal discomfort so it is a good idea to ditch them as well. Plus, gas causing bad bacteria and yeast feed on refined sugars, which can exacerbate bloating.